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chris: they want no public option on health care and they blame the president for a lousy economy. so what is obama to do to keep his big coalition? does he leave his left on the war and health and side in the middle? how does he keep things together when things have changed?
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how does he dance with the ones that brought him if they're different dances? losing face, bowing to the emperor, getting his speech jammed in china, trying terrorists in new york. is barack obama showing the kind of weakness that gets dreams? trouble? i'm chris matthews. welcome to the show. norah o'donnell is the chief correspondent for msnbc. anne kornblut, joe klein and david ignatius. first up president obama is facing three crushing diffulties, health care, the economy, and afghanistan. he is down to about 50% approval in the polls. that's completely due to his loss of independent voters. they have left him in droves. so for a president in need of support, what is the smart political move with independents on those three biggest issues? first let's take health care. since april, the president has lost independent voters on the key part of his agenda in big numbers. in april, just 25% of independent voters said they
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opposed the president on health care. now a huge jump, 45% of independents are against obama's plans for reform. 52% of independent voters opposed that public option. by comparison, just 22% of democrats oppose it. joe, how does he deal with that hot issue, that public option in his health care plan when democrats seem to like it, independents don't? >> he has to tough this one out. when i have been out there at town meetings talking to independent voters about the public option, the clearest thing is they don't know what it is. they think it means their doctor is going to be taken away and some socialist is going to take their blood pressure. once this happens, and they see that the public option is only a very, very, very minor provision in this, i think the numbers will go back up. chris: that may be true, 4 million or 6 million people are involved with the public option. it's a choice. government, they don't like that word out there as independent voters. >> there is too much government.
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there is too much government spending. i just met a couple from ohio when i was indiana that had crossed over the border. they pointed out they wanted president obama to deliver. he promised everybody change. they actually want the health care option. they said their children need. it it's got to get done quickly. this is actually a lot about people losing patience with the president. chris: that's the problem. even if the president gets the bill signed, sealed and delivered, he does it in the rose garden. it doesn't start until 2014. >> it's a long way off. i think if he can get a bill signed, it says to people government still works. the problem that everybody cares about, their health care, how the system works, he has gotten something through congress. i think independents want government to work. i think there is a big middle is about performance. it's the party that shows we can get it done. chris: you covered this, here is the problem. independent voters are standoffish about big government. they said that in the polls.
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they're standoffish largely about this public option, but what that does is make these moderate senators from states like nebraska, indiana, arkansas, louisiana keeping themselves away from the bill. so the very people that wanted to see action are represented by senators who are nervous about voting for this thing. >> which is why you see the senators not entirely against it, willing to vote to move it forward, hesitantly saying they'll wait and see what the deficit numbers will be. what is interesting is look at how vital a role independents played in 2006 and in 2008. in 2006, they helped win back the house. they played a role also in 2009 in the two governors races that we saw republicans win. chris: new jersey and virginia. >> they have gone both ways in the election. it's not that they hate government. they dust trust government. they're really kind of walking the fine line right now not really sure where they're going to be in 2010 in the midterm. >> the independents are kind of like the taliban.
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there are three or four or five different definitions of them. we're talking about the perot segment. it's 20 or 25% of the population. they don't trust government. they haven't seen government act in their best interest. they were really angry at the republicans in 2006 and 2008. >> they don't like government. let's take up afghanistan in the most recent poll, the challenge to obama is clear. 66% of independent voters, that's 2/3 of voters say they trust the generals over there, our generals, more than they trust the commander in chief, president bm. 48% of independents favor more troops going to afghanistan. 30% of democrats do. david, democrats are dovish, independent voters are hawkish. >> they're more hawkish. the president is lucky that the centrist national security figures that he has got who are going to help him argue for the policy are bob gates, his secretary of defense who was a hold over from the bush administration, and jim jones, this great big strapping former
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marine general. and those two people, i think, will be able to speak to the people in the center of the country who say you got to listen to the generals and the military and they say they will. >> the president is going to go for more troops. that's pretty clear. he wants some exit ramps. he wants a clear exit strategy. i think he probably personally wants to get out of afghanistan. he is going to be able to with all of this consensus building that he is doing with these meetings and meetings is try to get the group together so there isn't back biting behind the scenes. and the president was at odds with his commanding general. they do not want that to be the story line. chris: he has benefited from the competence of the military. he has got to seep that sense. >> he has a pretty good relationship with them. the key event here is that stanley mcchrystal is going to come and testify before congress after this decision is made. i will bet you anything he says the president made the right decision and we're going to do this his way.
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i am with him 100%. chris: who stepped first? the president supports mcchrystal first before mcchrystal said i am with him? he is going to give him 40,000 troops? >> yes. chris: explain. >> 40,000 troops was only one of three options that mcchrystal gave him. he gave him an 10,000 group objection and 80,000 option. chris: he can sit in that comfort zone with mcchrystal. will the independent voter come back and say, yeah, he is our guy? >> he hasn't actually made the case yet. the answer is that he can certainly win independents back. what we have seen so far is actually independents aren't that far from the rest of the population. trusting the commanders on the ground in afghanistan and trusting obama and the administration to make the overall strategic decision. once he goes out and gives a big speech, there is testimony on the hill, he is explaining it, there is a good chance he will
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make a good sales job. chris: a far higher suspicion of government among independent voters than democrats. a number of independents who hold president obama responsible for the current economic situation who don't say that over five times the numbers of democrats. what a dramatic difference. independent voters do not give this president any credit for what he has done. they plame him for what what's gone wrong. the democrats say it wasn't his fault, it was from bush. >> it's striking. the number of job losses have decreased, and they are significant, but they are decreasing in terms of the largest number. there is no doubt about it, the american people want action by this president. that is why he is holding this jobs summit. i don't know how much he can actually do. chris: the job summit sounds like public relations. >> no doubt. they have to look le they're doing something. there is doubt in the public that we have had a huge bailout, we had a huge stimulus, where are the numbers? the unemployment is still there. who are these guys on wall
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street getting billions dollars on wall street. chris: they're laughing always calling a meeting to see if we have high unemployment. >> one step up from a task force at this point. if the numbers don't start to shift, i don't know anyone knows that they're going to, they have to do actual policies again. chris: what should they do to get the unemployment number, a lot of experts say it could hang if we don't do something. >> the last time we got up to 10, it took 18 months to get it started moving back down again. they're going with some kind of stimulus. the states will have to be helped out again. they'll go for some small business tax credit. >> reagan got it down to seven points by his re-election date. can obama do that? >> sure, he could. >> the best economists say instead of extending unemployment benefits, they should talk about small business tax credits, something that will encourage businesses to hire people.
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that is the engine. chris: what do you think? >> he has to be very careful whether it's tax cuts or additional stimulus spending with the fiscal situation, the rest of the world is beginning to think that have completely lost control of our budgeting. and the fed, which is now under attack, part of the phenomena we're talking about, people's anger over unemployment is attacking the fed. if the fed is facg political pressure -- chris: larry summers is nervous about the debt question, more so about doing something that will look good. >> theory praying the unemployment number will come below 10%. if not, they will have their own disaster. chris: there is a bottom line we asked the matthews meter, no matter what objections independents have to obama's plan, is a job recovery key to winning them back? in other words, if we get a recovery, a big reduction in unemployment, will that bring back the independents. nine of the 12 say that will solve the problem.
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one person here says that won't be enough. >> explain. >> the reason why is that i think there is a really strong populous tide against bigness in this country, not just big government, but also big business. i think that they do not trust this president for that reason and that he is going to have to really do a lot more to win back their trust. chris: you're one of three that says even a good jobs reduction. norah. >> people like money in their pocket. people like the self-esteem from having a job and going to work every day. thsense whether it's your neighbor, yourself, or whoever it is gets their jobs back, it does a lot. chris: how does he win the independent voter back? does he bring them back by the job reduction or by going out and cam piping and showing that magnetism that won him back in 2008? >> it's results. he promised change. he said he was different than the past. people are fed up with washington. he has to get a health care bill done. i think that's the beginning of things. they got to tackle jobs and show that he is doing stuff on the
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economy. after he gets to health care, he is going to talk about what he is going to do about the war. they got to rack up some victories. chris: can his only personality do enough or not? >> he has to show his own independents to win the independent voter back. he has to move to the left by taking on wall street, to the right by taking on the democratic interest groups that aren't so popular in the country. chris: like which? >> trial lawyers. chris: that will be a start. anne. >> i agree with both of them absolutely. we have seen the limits of his personality carrying the day. he gave good speeches during the campaign. it's been a year since he has been in office. i agree. >> he has got to show that he can make government work. this president promised as a campaigner that he would find a way to govern again across these terrible partisan divisions. it isn't working. if he continues to fail at that, there is nothing he can do. chris: what the independent voter wants is competence and get it done. >> they want performance and for
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government to work. chris: it's been 50 years since dallas. now are we learning what a strong imaginative leader arose on that day of horror, what special genius lyndon johnson displayed. two recent books describe his deep historic recognition of what we now call the optics of that day. in a time of shock and horror, the man the constitution said was now our president knew just what to do to assure the country and the world that the america was never without a president. remember that day? remember how johnson left dallas carrying the body of john f. kennedy back to the white house? remember that picture we see even now of his oath taking with jacquelyn kennedy dutifully at his side. johnson all alone acted to make those events take place just as we have shared them all of these years. he knew it had to be done. he knew what we had to see. we had see a strong picture of a country being led, even at that moment of horror, by the
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man john f. kennedy had personally selected at this moment. johnson knew the vital importance of it all, the original taking even though the constitution didn't require it, the presence of jackie and the absolute refusal to leave jack kennedy's body behind while he headed to take power in washington. we can never imagine even now the whole terrible transition occurring badly because one man, the new president knew it had to be done right and even in all of the horror, he did it just that way. when we come back, questions about the obama white house's sense of optics, japan stymied by the chine and the decision to try terrorists in the new york courts. are the optics all wrong here? plus "scoops and predictions" from these top reporters. be right back.
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chris: welcome back. the word these days is optics,
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visuals, signals, in the carter presidency, the opt particulars were not exactly robust and ronald reagan rode that to a big victory in 1980. is the obama white house sending carteresque signals these days? some see that in the deep bow to the emperor of japan. in china, obama got nothing in the way of concessions in spite of playing the visitor. his chance to speak to the chinese was jammed by the government. and trying the terrorists in federal court in new york city, nothing had to be done and the critics say it shows that obama, his team doesn't understand this is a war we're in. david, that's the question. these optics are everything in a presidency. carter used to carry that garmentag over his shoulder. this president is he making mistakes like in china and japan? >> i think he is coming across as stiff. he is talking too much sometimes and communicating too little. so the opposite of what we saw during the campaign. although the decision to try
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khalid sheikh mohammed in new york apparently was eric holders, it strikes me that it really is a mistake. there are too many bad things that could happen. there is no reason to have to have done this. it's a political feel f decision-making, wonderful thing you just did about president johnson's feel for the moment. that's what i think is missing now with this group in the white house. i don't know where it's gone. they certainly had it during the campaign. maybe they'll get it back. chris: it's the political touch. you were in china. you just got back. tell me about that. the president tried to speak to the chinese people and apparently it was jammed. tell me about that. >> this was the big moment of the whole trip to asia, eight days in asia he was going to speak to chinese students in shanghai unfiltered in his answers and the chinese government, they allowed the event to take place. it was shown locally on shanghai television. people didn't see it. the one piece of news saying that the internet should be free and people should have access dribbled to th public and was deleted from the chinese
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websites. the following day he held a press conference with the chinese president and there were no questions and they read statements. this is the chinese, it's their home turf. they were allowed to do what they wanted to. that was the white house's argument. the white house haggled with them to get it more open. chris: did they know this was coming, that it wouldn't get to the people? >> sure. previous presidents had been allowed to reach the chinese public. they knew it might or might not. it did. they didn't have to stand there at a press conference, call it a press conference and not answer questions. it may have raised expectations a little high of what they were going to be able to do. >> there are two points i would make about this. first, what president has brought anything back from china since nixon? this guy has actually made really progress on diplomatic issues like pakistan, afghanistan, north korea with the chinese. but the optic that i thought was the most jarring was him at the wall all alone, no chinese guy could come and show him the wall. he couldn't bring hillary or
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rahm with him. it made him seem a loner. >> it was a stagey picture. >> listen, that's what these trips are about. there is very little that presidents accomplish on these foreign trips. there is never much accomplished. it is about visuals and signals. how you're viewed at home and around the world. those pictures give an impression to people. >> i know the bad part in the back of my brain that someone politically is going to use that picture of our president bowing to the japan emperor below the head of the emperor and saying that is cow towing to use an eastern expression and that's a weakness. >> it's baloney just as many people showed the picture and made judgments about president george w. bush holding hands with the king of saudi arabia and making judgments. that's why these things matter. >> i'm sure it will be used. i'm still remembering pictures
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of gerald ford stumbling down the airplane -- chris: that could have killed him. >> if he can get hisojo back, people will forget about the bow. >> do optics matter? >> yeah, they matter in both directions. chris: people remember them more than the words. >> him all alone is the image that he has to worry about. if the image becomes that he is this academic who is isolated from average americans, that's the biggest thing. chris: "scoops and predictions," tell me something i don't know. be right back.
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chris: welcome back. norah tell me something i don't know. >> sarah palin will one for president in 2012. she is getting the bug out there on her book tour. she likes her campaign bus. she likes all the security the campaign aides. i call them campaign aides, they're book tour aides.
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shale run. chris: i have a follow-up for you in just a minute. joe. >> my favorite provision of the senate health care bill is that if it passes, every member of congress has to give upheir federally funded health care plan and join one of the exchanges. chris: there is a point of view. anne kornblut. >> there are so many in the administration that think that dwan isn't going to close on its earlier deadline, it may not close in 2010 at all. chris: david. >> our intelligence agencies are picking up a new wave in afghanistan as afghans rush to get what money they have out of the country. chris: when we come back, this week's big question. sarah palin a year from now when republicans are lining up to run for president, will she lead the pack? be right back.
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chris: welcome back. with sarah palin's big week, our big question -- a year from now with the republican presidential fid has forward, will palin be in the lead? >> she'll be in the lead among republican primary voters. chris: it won't mean anything. >> i think it will look like 2008 will be a split decision chris: will she be in the lead? >> nobody will be in the lead. >> she will not be in the lead.
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she is accident prone. chris: she will be in the lead. that's my vote. norah o'donnell, anne kornblut, david ignatius. i think she has the sparkle. happy thanksgiving. see you here next week.
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The Chris Matthews Show
NBC November 22, 2009 10:00am-10:30am EST

News/Business. (2009) New. (CC)

TOPIC FREQUENCY Afghanistan 7, Obama 6, China 5, Mcchrystal 4, Johnson 4, New York 3, Sarah Palin 3, Obama White 2, David Ignatius 2, Norah O'donnell 2, John F. Kennedy 2, Washington 2, Dallas 2, Indiana 2, Shanghai 2, Anne Kornblut 2, Asia 2, George W. Bush 1, Ronald Reagan 1, Palin 1
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